Back to school: Tips and tools to get prepared Reply

Rear view of teenage students walking together on university campus. Horizontal shot.

As the big day gets closer, the day you start college for the first time, it’s important to make sure you’re organised, and you have every box ticked.

It is daunting, but starting college is an adventure, and something which you should approach as a fun, positive step in your life.

Paperwork done?

You probably did some sort of paperwork previously to even get into college, but having been accepted, have you signed all the forms for your accommodation? Do you need to send anything off in terms of money or bursaries? Is there any other piece of paper lurking that you haven’t sent off yet?

Pack up your life

You need to take many things with you as you leave home, but this is no easy task! Bear in mind that many dorm rooms are small, basic, and usually furnished, but you can easily make it homely. Pack light, but effectively. You can buy many things once you arrive, such as bedding and towels etc.

Get sociable

When it comes to meeting your new roommates/neighbours, don’t be shy! You need to create bonds early on, which will make your college life easier, and more fun overall. There will be many activities during Fresher’s Week – get involved.

Readjust your sleeping pattern

Summertime is over, and that means long mornings in bed are finished! In the week leading up to your leaving day, try and adjust your body clock to getting up when you would at college. This all means it’s less likely to be a huge shock when the event occurs.

Budgeting will see you through

This is something you can start getting used to in the weeks leading up to your college start date – budgeting. During your college life you are going to need to organise your money, in order to make sure that everything gets paid, and that you have enough to enjoy yourself. Ask for advice, speak to your parents, basically organise your money and stick to it.

Search for new study tools to use

When reaching for that perfect mark, you have to think a little outside the box. Thankfully there are many study tools to help.

  • Etherpad – If you are collaborating with other students on a project, it can be difficult to send work back and forth – this particular tool means you can collaborate online and share content easily, minimising oversights.
  • Getkahoo – Learning can be fun. You can work with other students or alone, and the multiple choice quizzes will help cement your previous learning, or help you with a subject you’re struggling on.
  • Boomessays – Academic writing doesn’t come that naturally to everyone, and in that case, a writing consultant is the way to go. This site helps you put together that perfect essay.
  • Haikulearning – Sharing knowledge is the perfect way to help others and help yourself. Here you can create pages and publish your knowledge, whilst also accessing content from other users online too.
  • The Homework App – If you need help organising yourself and your studies, this is a handy app on your iPhone or iPad which will make your life infinitely easier.
  • Mindmeister – We mentioned sharing before, but collaborating with other users can be just as effective. You can share ideas in a visual way on this site, which helps you gain ideas for your own college work.
  • Essayroo – Aussie students can access online tutor help from highly trained professionals in their particular field on this site.

These tips should help you on your way to your first day at college, without a hitch.


About Gloria Kopp

Gloria Kopp is a web content writer and an e-learning consultant from Manville city. She graduated from the University of Wyoming and started a career of a creative writer. She has recently launched her Studydemic educational website and is currently working as a freelance writer and editor.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Decoding your College Awards Letter Reply

Multi generation meeting at the coffee bar

Sharing the news of a college award letter.

Typically, colleges for which you have been accepted will send an awards letter to you in March or early April. This letter contains important information. From it, you should be able to determine your total cost and the financial aid you are offered. Unfortunately, there is no standardized format for these letters, nor is there a standardized set of data that must be reported in the letter. Each school formats their letters a little differently, and so it can be very difficult to decipher.

On your letter, you may see several acronyms. Let’s go over a few of them so that the letter itself will become clearer. Prior to receiving your Awards Letter, you received a notification from FAFSA which included your EFC – your Expected Family Contribution. This is the amount that you or your family will be expected to cover, using loans or other means. Your COA – is your cost of attendance. It is the amount listed on the letter that shows the total cost to attend the school. Your FAFSA of course, is your Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the application you completed to start the whole process.

The letter should outline your COA, so that you understand the overall costs. If you are comparing schools, this is often a very important number. You will also see the Net Price, which is the COA minus your gift aid. Gift Aid is considered the scholarships and grants that you were awarded through the school and the FAFSA. While COA is an important number, the Net Cost can be even more important. The Net Cost is the Cost of Attendance (COA) minus the financial aid you received. This includes all grants, scholarships, and loans. The Net Cost is composed of your EFC plus a GAP, which is the difference between the total cost and the EFC – something that goes beyond your expected family contribution.

The Net Cost can be important because, even if the COA of one school is higher than the other, that higher priced school might have more aid available. This could mean that by looking at your net cost, you may find that you could actually pay less to attend a more expensive school because they have more scholarships and grants available.

Once you have decided on a school (if you’ve applied to more than one) it is important for you to review the Awards Letter and return it to the school. When you review your Awards Letter, you will be accepting some or all of the Financial Aid offered. It is important to get this done as soon as possible so that your aid can be applied to your account at the school. You can choose to accept or not accept any portion of your financial aid. When looking through your aid package, you’ll want to accept all grants and scholarships first, followed by any federal loans prior to accepting private loans. This will help ensure that your overall costs stay low.

Sophomores: Now is the Time to Visit and Tour College Campuses Reply

iStock_000004837175SmallVisiting a college campus is a great way to find out if a college is the right fit for you. With all of the variation in college campuses, student housing, and academic and student life, the only way to experience a college before actually attending is to do a campus tour. Plus, it can be fun to have a road trip with your parents or friends during a summer to hit two birds with one stone. During the summer is usually the best time for high school students, however, in order to get a true feel for how the campus will be during the school year, it might be best to visit during the Fall or Spring semester.

The first thing you need to do when planning out your on-campus visits is to choose a number of universities and state colleges that are close and far from your hometown. How many you want to visit is up to you, but it is important to at least visit the colleges on your top 5 list. Keep in mind that sometimes college tours only take a couple of hours so you can visit 2 or 3 during one day if you schedule in advance. However, some colleges also offer the chance for potential applicants to stay the night with current undergraduates. If you have the time to do this, it is highly recommended. Staying the night in a dormitory is a great way to learn firsthand from students what the college experience will be like.

After you have narrowed down the colleges you want to visit, be sure to call the school’s admissions office so that you can be sure you are visiting during an appropriate time. If you want a tour that is led by someone who knows about the campus, most require that you call at least 2 weeks in advance. However, simply going to the campus and walking around without a guide can be helpful too. Though colleges prefer that you schedule a tour, exploring the campus can often give you a more authentic experience.

If you want to get all of the information possible in one visit it is also a good idea to set up appointments with an academic advisor, financial aid office, a professor in the field you want to major in, and a coach if you are planning on doing college sports. Professionals at the school will typically be willing to meet with you during business hours to help answer your questions and show off their school to get you to attend when you graduate high school. And don’t worry, you don’t have to have everything planned out right away. You still have plenty of time to decide what you want to study and where you want to go. Plus, over 50% of students change their major at least once, so don’t feel bad about trying out different specialties until you find one that you truly enjoy.

Applying for Scholarships: Start Early and Apply Often Reply

Students studyingLocal scholarships are scholarships that various organizations in your community offer students who reside in particular place to help pay for college. Often these scholarships are offered through municipalities or prominent figures that wanted to give back to their home communities. Plus, since these are largely given out based on geographic location, it can often be easier to be awarded money for school because of the smaller applicant pool.

Even if you live in a small community, there are often plenty of scholarships available, you just might have to do more work to find them. So, before you start your junior year, you should already be asking your teachers, mentors, employers, parents, and other people in your community that might know about local scholarships that might be available. You might be surprised to find out how much money is available to eager and driven students.

Most scholarship deadlines are in January, so you should be ready by mid-year of your junior year to have scholarships already lined up for after you graduate. This might seem early, but it isn’t. Plan on carving out some time in your schedule in order to find and apply for scholarships. Preparation and due diligence are key here.

Along with asking those who are close to you about available scholarships, check with your guidance office. They will likely have a list of scholarships available. But don’t just stop there as they might not have a full list. Contact state and local agencies, community colleges and universities around your area, as well as searching online for local scholarships in your city. This is a time when picking up the phone or scheduling a meeting with someone in-the-know can greatly pay off in the long run.

The Importance of Following Up on Your Financial Aid Reply

Financial Aid Follow UpThe prospect of college can be a very exciting as well as a little scary. Your life is about to change dramatically, in many ways. Soon you’ll be attending a university, living on campus, and taking classes that will actually lead to your future career! It seems anticlimactic that your preparation consists mostly of tedious applications and almost endless research. While it can be frustrating to spend so much time and effort on such brain numbing tasks, persistence and follow-up can ensure that you get into the school that is the best fit for you, and obtain all of the financial aid that you deserve.

You’ve put the time in. There were the hours spent researching and applying to scholarships, writing essays, and gathering references. You’ve spent your time investigating schools, finding the ones that you feel would be the best fit for you. Finally, you’ve worked to complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), reviewed it for accuracy, and it has been sent off to your school choices. Once your schools receive your FAFSA report, they will begin their process of determining what financial aid you are entitled to. The report helps the school determine the Federal financial aid you can be awarded, but it also is often used for other types of grants and loans that the school may offer.

Now is not the time to rest. Once you have been informed that your FAFSA is complete, and you have reviewed your Student Aid Report (SAR) and made any necessary corrections or changes, then your FAFSA information will be sent to the schools you have listed in your application. Now it’s important to follow up.

Check with each school where you have applied to make sure they have received your application. While most of the time a school receives your FAFSA report without a problem, it would be very unfortunate if you were denied admission into one of your top school choices because the school never received it. If it hasn’t been received, most of the time either you or the school can work with FAFSA to make sure it is sent to the school.

Once you have confirmed that the FAFSA report has been received, you can ask the school if there is any other information they need from you and inquire when you could expect to receive an awards letter. This does a couple of things. First, it gives you a timeframe for when you can expect to know how much financial aid you will receive. Second, it leaves a good impression with the school. You show that you are a proactive student who is deeply committed to your education, and it expresses your desire to attend the school. Following up is essential. Being proactive will put you a step ahead of those who simply wait to hear from their school, and help you avoid an unexpected setback.

Need a scholarship? Let Peterson’s help!

Reviewing Your Student Aid Report – an Important Step in the FAFSA Application Process Reply

FAFSA

FAFSA and Financial Aid

Completing your FAFSA application can be a tedious and lengthy process for both students and parents, particularly the first time you go through the process. After gathering your tax information and other paperwork, you and your parents likely spent quite some time entering in information, answering questions and signing (electronically in most cases) the FAFSA application, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR).

If you provided an email address during the application process, the Student Aid Report will be emailed to you. If you didn’t, then you’ll receive a copy of the report in the mail. If you completed the FAFSA online and signed it using your FAFSA ID, then you’ll most likely get your emailed copy within 3-5 days, or mailed to you within 7-10 days. If you didn’t sign online, but rather printed and returned a signature page, then the report will likely be available to you after about 2 weeks. If you make a change or correction to your FAFSA, it will generate a new report – in some cases immediately, and 3-5 days in other cases.

Once you have completed the FAFSA and received your SAR, it is important that you review it carefully for accuracy. This report is what your school will use to determine your Federal aid. It can also be used to help determine any other scholarships or financial aid that may be available to you. Any errors in the report could affect the student aid that you received.

The report will also tell you if your application is complete. If it is complete, it will contain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If it is incomplete according to FAFSA, then it will provide information about what else might be needed. However, just because FAFSA shows your SAR as completed and populates the EFC, that doesn’t mean that you have completely entered everything in accurately. When reviewing, ensure that you have entered all of your information correctly, and that you haven’t omitted information on any of the questions.

If you do need to make changes, either because you’ve found an error or because the report asks you for more information, you simply log into your FAFSA application and make the necessary changes. After you’ve applied the changes, you’ll receive another SAR to review.

After all the time you spend completing the FAFSA, it may seem overly tedious to review your SAR, but it is a necessary part of the process. Take the time that you need to submit an accurate and complete application. The Student Aid Report is your tool to make sure you’ve done everything that you need to do, and it is the same report your school will use. When you’re certain that your application is complete, you can be certain that you’ve maximized all of the financial aid you are entitled to.

Find out more about the FAFSA on Peterson’s.

Apply for ROTC Scholarships in March Reply

ROTC

Female JROTC Cadets in Sarasota

The Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) offers assistance in paying for college in return for a promise to serve in the Army, Navy, Marines, or Air Force. A student enrolled in the ROTC will participated in military training around 4 hours a week, on average, during the course of earning a degree, and will receive scholarships to help pay for tuition as well as a monthly payment to cover living expenses while in college. You’ll also be required to enroll in elective classes and labs that are relative to your future military career. After college, you’ll enter the military as an officer.

It’s important to remember that ROTC is more than just a scholarship program, and you should be absolutely certain you wish to join the military after college before you apply for a scholarship. Your scholarship and monthly stipend are contingent upon your promise to serve in the military after your education is completed. If you fail to live up to your active duty commitment, you could be subject to ROTC disenrollment, which can include an obligation for you to repay the aid that you have received and a mandatory active service requirement.

If you are a high school junior who is planning on joining the military and looking at ROTC as an option, it is important to start looking at this in March. There are 1,100 colleges that have ROTC programs for the Army and Air Force/Marines and about 153 colleges that have ROTC programs for the Navy. It’s important to talk to your counselor now to determine which of the schools you are interested have an ROTC program for the branch of the military you are interested in joining. If you currently participate in JROTC in high school, that organization can also help you find schools.

There are many considerations to applying for the ROTC program. It is helpful to have a B average for your high school career. If you can, join the honor society and participate in school programs such as athletics or student government.

It’s recommended that you apply to multiple schools that have the ROTC program you are interested in, to increase your chances of being accepted into a school. It’s also recommended that you start preparing and take the SAT or ACT test as soon as you can. Your performance in these tests will be a factor in your application for the ROTC program. You will also be required to take and pass a physical fitness test prior to being accepted into the ROTC program – so while you are studying for classes, applying for schools and scholarships, and preparing for tests, don’t forget to stay in shape!

Check out ROTC Scholarships on Petersons.com today.

It’s March – Which College Should You Apply To and When? 1

So you’ve gathered a list of prospective colleges and you are ready to apply. But with applications fees stacking up creating a financial burden, which ones are the right ones to apply to?

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Girl pushing university button on search toolbar of virtual screen.

By now you should have a good list of 5 to 10 or more colleges that you are considering attending once you graduate high school. These colleges should include colleges that are a long shot, some conservative selections, as well as safety nets like local universities and community colleges. The reality is, everyone wants to go to the best college, but a lot have to go to a more conservative option due to a number of reasons, including the cost of attendance, how far the college is from family, and what the college has to offer.

Whatever the case, March of your junior year in high school is a good time to start narrowing down your list of schools. But, how do you know which school is the right school for you?

There are many factors that come into play when choosing which school you want to attend, and ultimately the decision is up to you. However, there are a few things you should keep in consideration no matter what your particular situation is, for example, the cost of attendance, what majors the school has to offer, and the geographic location of the school in terms of where you want to live and how close you want to be from home. Other things to consider are extracurricular activities, such as clubs, sports, and special programs, housing options, and last but not least, the facilities on campus, like science labs, theaters, and gyms.

Each of these things should be carefully considered when deciding where to apply to. You don’t want to end up paying for application fees to places you don’t plan to go to anyway. Some of the can be upwards of over $100 to submit your application.

Get the best information on how to choose the right college for you with Peterson’s.

Getting Ready for College as a High School Senior Reply

Student Loan

Student loans and scholarship money.

It’s crunch time for high school seniors preparing for college. For many, the end of the prior school year and the summer before senior year was spent applying for scholarships and grants  and spent September applying to colleges.. Most students will have a decision from the colleges they have applied to by April, but there are things that need to be done before then.

Finishing up scholarship applications:

High school seniors should be finishing up the application process for most of their scholarship requests. It is important to review the scholarship application deadlines as well as ensure that all requested information for each scholarship is completed correctly. Many scholarships are very competitive and incomplete or incorrectly completed applications are often not considered. Others may require essays or letters of recommendation or transcripts. It is important to take the time with each scholarship that has not already been submitted to ensure that all requirements have been accurately completed.

Even though college starts in the fall, it is not too late to continue to look for other scholarship opportunities. This may be a good time to check with local social and philanthropic organisations in within the community for further opportunities. College expenses add up quickly and any extra fund sources, even smaller scholarships, are worth the time to investigate.

Two misconceptions regarding completing the FAFSA:

It is time to complete the FAFSA application, if it has not been completed already. Some students and parents think that they must wait until after 2016 income taxes are completed. Others think that they cannot apply for financial aid until they have been accepted by a college. Neither of these are true. FAFSA applications can be completed prior to income tax returns, and can be amended once the returns are completed. If a student has applied for more than one college, information on all colleges can be included in the FAS application.

With the FAFSA application, timing is everything. Many of the grants and financial aid options offered by the FAFSA are offered on a first come, first served basis. The sooner the application is completed, the more opportunities for financial aid will be available.

Most applications to college are decided in March or April. If a student has applied for Early Decision or Early Action, then likely he or she has already received the decision. It is important to speak with admissions counselors and understand the complete admissions process. Regardless of the admissions process for the individual college, having the FAFSA completed will simplify the process.

Learn more about what seniors in high school should be doing for college applications with Peterson’s.